- Psychological Issues
I don’t like “trigger warnings” because they imply that our readers can’t handle something. That said, I would like to stress that this is an incredibly intense piece about the difficult subject of sexual assault. I will also tell you that Erin Bardwell is a powerful writer. Please make sure you are prepared before reading ahead.
Content note: explicit descriptions of sexual assault
It is the dark basement with the girl named Bicardi. She leaves me there. All of you surround me. Maybe you want to know who gets to go first. I step back, wait where’s the bathroom, I just want to be clean before I’m dirty. And you’re there, and I plead with you, with just the one of you, to let me go. You show me the window. I climb through it. I go back to a housewarming party, cold inside. It’s so cold outside.
It’s all everyday, everything, and therefore nothing. It’s why I don’t bother telling you when it happens because it’s mundane now, it’s boring, it’s like telling you about my bus ride or my boss. It’s “smile, baby” this and “mami you lookin’ fiiiiine” that. It’s “that ass, girl!” or “bitch, you need a Wonderbra.” It’s the sales clerk, the mailman, the grandfather of little girls. I’m a little girl. I am small and don’t matter.
You don’t leave me alone until I say I have a boyfriend. I don’t. But my imaginary boyfriend is what saves me, because my imaginary boyfriend’s possession of me is worth more than my own.
I try to cut you out through my skin, pouring bleach into my blood, no no even that’s not enough. I try to burn you out with a lighter, already familiar with the smell of scorching flesh. I watch the blisters form because they mean more to me than you. I watch as the fire washes me clean, punishes me for being so worthless, so fucking helpless, such a bad girl. Such a bad girl. Even with my hair up, with a hoodie up, with my face down, with my guard up. You still see somehow my body. You still see somehow it’s yours. I belong to you, and you, and you. I get it now. It’s been so many years but I get it now.
It’s you crossing the street to avoid walking behind me at night, and it’s my understanding that your indifference makes you good. It’s you explaining that you’re not following me, that’s it’s just opposite street side parking day. It’s you, another stranger, giving me cab money to get home because I’m bleeding, breathing in little gasps, escaping but barely.
It is you not fucking me because I’m too fucked up to fuck. It is you not touching me on the train. It is you keeping to your side of the elevator and away from my life. It is you keeping silent when you pass me on the street. It is you letting me loosen the grip of my keys in my fist, because you’ve shown me I don’t have to fight you. It is you walking me home at night, a humiliating ritual lightened by your laughter. Most of all, it is you believing me. Most of all, it is you not saying “yes, but men.” It is you not #NotAllMen. Most of all, it is you not saying how I should learn how to take a compliment.
It is what it is.
And I’m so sorry. For us all.
If you link to this piece, please link to the original post: Lost in the Light, Left in the Dark